“It has really broken us.
”Updated on Sep 27, 9:17 AM; Published on Sep 27, 7:00 AM
It would have been easy to miss the neighborhood tucked behind a car lot along Oregon 99 on the outskirts of Medford.
A plain yellow sign on the side of the highway marked the entrance. Inside, the snug collection of trailer homes sat along a single lane. It was home to people who work as landscapers, fruit-pickers, housekeepers and childcare providers.
A lot of the families knew each other, even celebrated birthdays together. Neighbors could call on one another to watch the kids if they were running late.
Seventeen families called San Rogue Trailer Park home. Most were Latino. Some had lived there for more than a decade.
Suekaty Barragan, 27, was one of them.
She and her husband Toribio, 32, were raising their three young children there. Barragan’s mom, Graciela Palomera, 46, lived a few doors down.
“I was number 15,” said Barragan, “and she was number 12.”
Now all of that is gone.
Seventeen families called the San Rogue Trailer Park home. Most were Latino. Some had lived there more than a decade. Suekaty Barragan, 27, was one of them. Barragan is pictured with her son Fernando, 4, in front of the golf course that surrounds the assisted living facility in Medford where she works. Barragan is one of several residents who have had to work through the loss of their homes and belongings. At right, what remains of Barragan’s home. “It’s the memories,” she said. “The material things come and go, but I will never see my neighbors. I will never see my kids play with any of the children they were raised with.” Beth Nakamura/Staff
Three weeks ago, the Almeda fire roared north along Bear Creek from Ashland, charting a ruthless course through Talent and Phoenix, two modest communities along Oregon 99 between Ashland and Medford.
The fire upended life in southern Oregon. It displaced thousands, many of them Latino, in a region where, like the rest of the state, affordable housing was already scarce.
It left many with nothing but the clothes they wore as they fled.
Even within Oregon’s unprecedented wildfire season, the Almeda fire stands out for the destruction it left behind. Nearly 3,000 homes, many of them in places where residents live paycheck-to-paycheck, were incinerated in a single afternoon.
“This really was an urban fire that was driven by winds and spread incredibly quickly from house to house and then moved from community to community,” said Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.